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NFR Day 9 photos: Kaycee Feild wins world title, joins dad as champion

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Tom Donoghue/DonoghuePhotography.com

Terry Fator, Taylor Makakoa and Charlie Daniels at Round 9 of the 53rd Wrangler National Finals Rodeo at the Thomas & Mack Center on Dec. 9, 2011.

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2011 National Finals Rodeo: Night 9

Round 9 of the 53rd Wrangler National Finals Rodeo at the Thomas & Mack Center on Dec. 9, 2011. Launch slideshow »

2011 National Finals Rodeo

2011 National Finals Rodeo

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Round 9 of the 53rd Wrangler National Finals Rodeo at the Thomas & Mack Center on Dec. 9, 2011.

Click to enlarge photo

Round 9 of the 53rd Wrangler National Finals Rodeo at the Thomas & Mack Center on Dec. 9, 2011.

Click to enlarge photo

Terry Fator and Charlie Daniels at Round 9 of the 53rd Wrangler National Finals Rodeo at the Thomas & Mack Center on Dec. 9, 2011.

Click to enlarge photo

Round 9 of the 53rd Wrangler National Finals Rodeo at the Thomas & Mack Center on Dec. 9, 2011.

The evening belonged to bareback horse rider Kaycee Field as -- under the watchful eye of his proud father -- he won his world championship at the 53rd Wrangler National Finals Rodeo last night. It was one of a string of sensational success stories for the Utah cowboy who lives 360 miles north of Las Vegas, even though he didn’t win the round and placed 4th. But the points and the purse took him over the top.

Kaycee was the second rider this week at the Thomas & Mack Center to grab a world title ahead of tonight’s final Round 10 and the gold buckle presentations tomorrow. Texan Trevor Brazile won his world championship in bull steer roping in Round 4.

Mirage headliner singer ventriloquist Terry Fator, accompanied by wife and onstage assistant Taylor Makakoa, was on hand with legendary country star Charlie Daniels for the national anthem. Kaycee amazed as he won the first three rounds of the rodeo, a rare feat, and continued with two more victories. Last night meant that Kaycee joined his Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame father Lewis in the world champions club.

His 4th-place tie increased his week’s earnings to $115,577 in front of 17,882 fans. He leads the bareback riding average with his year’s earnings at $256,236 heading into the final round and continues to lead the Ram Top Gun Award standings, so there’s plenty on the line. He just won’t have to worry about the gold buckle.

“I didn’t realize I’d won it, actually,” said Kaycee, who takes home the gold in his fourth trip to NFR. “I knew I had to do good tonight to win it. I wished I could have done a little better tonight, but I’m just as happy as I can be.”

Kaycee has tied Bobby Mote for the most round wins in a single Wrangler NFR with five and could break the bareback earnings records for an entire season and NFR -- both set by Bobby in 2009. He needs an 86-point ride in Round 10 to break Justin McDaniel’s average record of 859 points on 10 rides set in 2008. The celebration will have to wait, however, for Kaycee.

“I went out last night (Thursday) and said hi to some friends but was back in bed at a decent time,” Kaycee said. “I’ll probably do the same thing tonight. I think I’ll wait until I get home to Payson for the real celebration.”

Lewis Feild was happy for his son to join the select list of father-son world champions. There have been only five such combinations: Deb (saddle bronc riding) and Jeff Copenhaver (tie-down roping); John W. and John W. Jones Jr. (steer wrestling); John and Clark McEntire (steer roping); Butch and Rope Myers (steer wrestling); and Bobby (bull riding) and Sid Steiner (steer wrestling). A seventh duo, Tuf and Ray Cooper, who owns eight world titles, could join that lineup tonight in tie-down roping.

“It’s a dream come true,” said Kaycee’s dad, who won two world titles in bareback riding and three in the all-around in the 1980s. His first of three all-around world championships was at the inaugural Las Vegas NFR. He won his first bareback championship here in 1985 and kept his streak going in 1986 and 1987.

“I’ve gone through those same things myself, and to watch my son do it, I don’t know how it could get any better. I guess I could have a grandson do it, but that’s a little ways down the road,” he said. Kaycee was pipped at the post by NFR rookie Casey Colletti, who picked up his seventh check of the week and his first NFR round victory with an 87.5-point ride.

Thanks to contributing photographer Tom Donoghue for his extraordinary action photos from Round 9 and the Professional Cowboys Rodeo Association for assisting with this report.

Saddle bronc rider Jesse Wright won his fourth round of the week, pushed his NFR earnings to $115,096 and now sits 2nd in world standings behind leader Taos Muncy in a round in which only five of 14 bronc riders made the 8-second whistle. With $195,509 won on the season, Jesse trails Taos by $14,309 going into Round 10 of his second NFR, so expect intense competition in the last night.

“I’m not worried about anything (Taos) is doing, I’m worried about myself and my horse,” Jesse said. “I’m just going to try to come in and win the round like I’ve been trying to every night.”

For the third time this week, there was a three-way tie atop the steer wrestlers’ leaderboard. Luke Branquinho, Casey Martin and Jake Rinehart all claimed a share of first with 3.6-second runs. The $14,231 payday for each cowboy helped keep Luke in the race for his third world championship. It’s become the closest race from top to bottom after nine rounds, so anybody can win it.

“It’s an awesome feeling,” said Luke, who hails from California. “It just shows you all the talent bulldogging has in it. That’s what’s kind of neat about the deal.”

Bull rider Cody Whitney earned his second check of the week with a 90.5-point ride and his first NFR round win for the three-time Finals qualifier. “Three years ago, I won a couple of 2nds and then last year I won three or four 2nd places. To finally get a go-round buckle sure makes it worthwhile.”

The bull-riding race is still down-to-the-wire between world standings leader Shane Proctor and three-time world champion J.W. Harris.. J.W. is one spot back in world and average standings.

South Dakota barrel racer Lisa Lockhart won her second round of the week with a 13.79-second run. She sits 4th in the world standings but is 9th in the average race after nine rounds. “I’m just thrilled to have won as much as I have with those downed barrels,” said Lisa, who has won $79,038 despite hitting a barrel in Rounds 1 and 7. Canadian Lindsay Sears has the inside track on her second world title (the first came in 2008). She placed 6th last night and remains 2nd in world standings and leads the Las Vegas racing.

World standings leader Brittany Pozzi hit a barrel in Round 8 and has dropped to 8th in the average. Other winners last night: Shane Hanchey of Sulphur, La., won tie-down roping, and Cody Whitney of Asher, Okla., topped bull riding.

The remaining seven championships will be settled tonight in the closing 10th round. We’ll be back tomorrow with all the action photos and a video report in advance of Sunday afternoon’s live telecast of the gold buckle and big check presentations to the new world champions.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.

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Follow VDLX Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

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